Andre Agassi keeps on rolling
DON'T write off Andre Agassi just yet, even if he falls short of a fourth Australian Open singles title this campaign.
Agassi said yesterday he hadn't considered retirement.
He expects to play a full schedule this year and is already talking next year.
"I don't know, is the simple answer," was the response to the inevitable query as the American, who turns 35 in late April, set up at Kooyong this week.
"I don't feel it's my place to choreograph an ending.
"It's a sport that has been great to me and I'll give it everything I've got.
"As long as I'm out there feeling like someone has to play a great match to beat me, expecting myself to win.
"If I can play a great match, I'll find reason to keep going.
"A lot can happen in a year, but I definitely hope to be back.
"Right now, that's my plan.
"My Mum thinks I can play for 10 more, but we'll see.
"The body has to hold up, you have to train harder and smarter. You have to find ways to keep getting better because everyone around you always is.
"Right now, that's what I do and I'm not thinking past that.
"This week will be important, having each other to help prepare ourselves and this week will be a great step in that direction."
Agassi was hampered by a hip ailment in June and forced to take more time off when it recurred during the US hardcourt season.
"I needed some time off, but it was unfortunately during one of the biggest tournaments of the year, Wimbledon," he said.
"But as the result of that time off, I got my body stronger again.
"I was happy with the way the year ended. I was happy with my game despite a couple of disappointing losses.
"I'm healthy and feel good, now, and I'm pretty eager to go.
"I didn't want to change the formula I've had over the years. Getting here a little earlier was something I was anxious to do.
"Plus, with two kids, it's leave. Take your time and give yourself a few extra days.
"I've trained hard, but it's not until you get on court that you start putting everything together.
"It's exciting to do that."
Agassi played 21 of the other major championships before his first Australian Open in 1995 and he still rues the late start in front of tennis fans he said were educated and passionate.
"It brings out the best in so many players," he said.
"I've had the benefit to be able to compete here for the past 10 years and regret that I didn't get the chance to understand that the first 10 years.
"When people care about what you do, it even makes it more special. It's a great environment to play."
Agassi will open proceedings at Kooyong today when he takes on Chile's Nicolas Massu.
Andre Agassi forever